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Industry Survey Reveals a Worrying Crisis of Confidence

On 1 June 146,605 candidates from 168 countries sat down to take CFA Program Level I, II and III examinations to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in the investment industry.

Over the 50 years since CFA Institute launched the exam hundreds of thousands of committed professionals have put in a significant investment of time and energy to their studies, often supported by their employers and outside of working hours, with the shared goal of enhancing their knowledge, ethical foundation, and career capital.

It was therefore disappointing to read some of the figures coming from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report on rebuilding trust in financial services published last month. The survey of financial services professionals sought views on how proud representatives felt to say they worked in the industry, and found that only 54% believe their employer has high integrity.

Perhaps most disturbingly, one in six employees say they felt bullied in the past two years to behave in ways that run counter to their personal ethics or the interests of customers. The survey also shows a lack of professional qualifications in the sector - of the 47% who do hold such qualifications, the majority are senior managers.

These telling statistics demonstrate the damage that has been done within the industry at a time when the public focus is very much on the external fallout of the financial crisis. Employees in the sector do not trust the organisation they work for to act with integrity, and there is a crisis of confidence in the perceptions of serving as investment professionals. 33% of respondents said that their company's values are not universally adopted in the behaviour of their colleagues.

With green shoots of recovery tentatively emerging in the UK and other markets, this kind of attitude must be addressed sooner rather than later; if left to fester it will destroy organisations and hinder recovery. The research also shows that the industry has lost sight of its original purpose- to serve the underlying society, with less than half of those surveyed listing customers as their most important stakeholders.

We must restore the drive and ambition of all professionals that we see in the CFA Program candidates each year, and must help it grow amongst their colleagues. As well as investing in professional development, leaders need to commit to the values of their organisation and live those values in all the work they do in order to lead by example.

There is much to be done, and may findings such as those of the CIPD be a benchmark upon which to build. I believe that working together as a sector we can once again make investment professionals proud to serve their customers, their employers, and the global economy.

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